A NEW-LOOK enterprise centre built from 37 reconditioned shipping containers is set to open in Sunderland in the new year.
Sustainable Enterprise Strategies (SES) will move into the co-operative business centre on the site of the old River Wear social club in Hendon, replacing its current premises at the Hendon Co-op Centre which is due to be demolished next year.
Construction of the new centre has just started but already around 60% of the 100,000sq m of managed space has been reserved. In addition to SES, other occupants of the old centre, including Sunderland Home Care Associates, will be moving across.
SES director Mark Heskett-Saddington said: “The building will represent the enterprising work that goes on in the Hendon area and demand is already proving that social businesses are still thriving in difficult economic conditions.
“We have been running in the North East for over 28 years now and this new development will secure our operation as we look to support enterprise in all its forms.”
SES helped to create 27 new social enterprises in 2010/11 and continued to support 163 around the region. They include Sunderland and North Tyneside Home Care Associates, Compass Transport, Be Active, Be Fit and Sunderland Dance CIC, which have a combined turnover of more than £27.5m and employ around 1,430 people.
The enterprise agency also helped in the creation of 313 traditional business start-ups in the same period.
The new centre, which is funded via the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) 2007-13, SES, Sunderland City Council, Co-operative and Community Finance and the Co-operative Bank, has been designed by Newcastle-based Napper Architects.
Most of the structure is recycled, using 37 shipping containers that have shipped goods around the world for 20 years. Much of the fabrication work has been completed, so the construction should be complete early in 2012.
James Gilbert of Napper Architects said: “Container developments give rise to many challenges in terms of design but they always deliver visually exciting results.
“The new centre will be a much talked-about development when people see it take shape and in turn we believe this will help to attract people to the valuable services delivered by SES and the other new tenants.”
It is hoped the building will serve as a focal point for enterprise in the east end of Sunderland. The City Council leader, Coun Paul Watson, said: “You only have to drive through Hendon and the east end to see many successful small businesses continuing to thrive.
“The city council’s own Stansfield Centre in the heart of Hendon operates at near-capacity, proving there is demand for office space here and the nearby new Software City building is also taking shape.
“I’m sure the new centre is going to be a success and its eye-catching look will act as a beacon of enterprise in the area.”
SES will use rents and revenue from the centre to fund its enterprise work in Sunderland.